The Best Early NCAA NIL Deal Belongs To Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon Who Had A Signing At A Fireworks Store

When the clock hit midnight on July 1, NCAA athletes were suddenly allowed to make money off of their name, image, and likeness, with the NCAA providing rather basic guidelines for schools in states that don’t have their own law regarding NIL compensation. With the knowledge that this was coming, at 12:01 a.m., plenty of athletes already had posts ready to go on social media as a new (and long overdue) world for college athletics had been entered.

There were the deals you expected from local pizza joints and car dealerships and all of the places you already expected to be working with teams and players to “help them out” but could now do so without going under the table. However, there were also some creative partnerships that weren’t expected, none getting Twitter more excited than Iowa basketball star Jordan Bohannon doing a signing at a fireworks store, Iowa Boomin’, on July 1 and doing a raffle for some game-worn sneakers.

This is indicative of how many places are ready to dive into sponsorship agreements with college players, because in places like Iowa and other states and cities without major professional sports, the big draw is going to be the college athletes. Bohannon’s fireworks deal is the early frontrunner for strangest partnership, but an honorable mention needs to go to Ohio State offensive lineman Dawand Jones whose GoPuff delivery partnership started off with a tweet about…candles?

Everyone, even your 6’8, 300-plus pound linemen loves their home smelling fresh. While football and men’s basketball players will certainly be able to cash in, the athletes that stand to gain the most from the NIL change are those in non-revenue sports who often are able to build massive social media followings in more niche sports and will now be able to cash in on those while they’re in school and at the peak of their popularity — particularly if there aren’t a lot of pathways towards being a professional in those sports.

One example of that came from the world of college wrestling, which has a rabid fanbase, particularly in the midwest and plains states, as national champion A.J. Ferrari (yes, his name is incredible), already has merch for fans to buy in a deal with a wrestling apparel brand.

Another came from women’s hoops where the Cavinder twins, Haley and Hanna of Fresno State, who have over a million followers on social media, worked two deals including one with Boost Mobile that had them on a Times Square billboard on Thursday.

It’s an incredible new world and it’s awesome to see athletes taking advantage of this new ability to make money off their own personal brands already, and it’s just the beginning of what should be a very lucrative market for athletes across all sports.

UPDATE: We have our first NCAA athlete pet sponsorship!